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Literacy- GPS

Page history last edited by Boyd.natalie 11 years, 3 months ago


Teach Geography and Literacy together with GPS


     Teaching opportunities shouldn't be limited to a classroom.  Allow students a chance to explore the outdoors, even if it is literally outside the front door of your school.  GPS is a great method to explore a navigational tool while literally walking the land geographically, as well as include elements of literacy.


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What is GPS?


Global Positioning System (GPS) - is a satellite based navigational system that gives us the ability to pin point an exact location anywhere on earth.  


When did we get access to GPS?

     On May 1st, 2000 (at exactly midnight), president Bill Clinton had selective availability turned off.  This improved our ability to locate precise coordinates.  


   GPS enthusiasts were so excited by the new abilities that David Ulmer hid the first cache in Oregon, in the woods and shared the coordinates with individuals on an online GPS User's Group, on May 3rd, 2000.  Three days later two different individuals had located the cache in the woods.  As a result, geo caching began! 


What do I need to teach with GPS?


  • At least one handheld GPS unit 
  • Some cell phones have GPS capabilities (this could be an option) 
  • Geocaching Website - access to local caches but not necessary. 
  • Students - dressed appropriately for the current outdoor weather 


How to use a handheld GPS unit?


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What is a cache?  Or a geocache?


     A cache is a hidden storage space.  A geocache is a hidden storage container that has been placed at an exact position.  In most cases the coordinates of the cache position are available to the public.  

     These coordinates can be entered into the GPS unit.  Students can then use the GPS unit to locate the area in which the cache is hidden.  


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Connecting geocaching with literacy:


     Geocaches are often hidden in very clever ways, and hints are often used to locate the actual hiding place.  A hint is typically coded in a way to conceal the meaning, until you truly cannot find the cache without decoding the hint.  All official geocache hints are coded using the modern English alphabet as shown below:



     Depending upon the grade level, the hint may be complex enough, while learning to recognize capital and lowercase letters in Kindergarten for example.  At the same time, this may not be challenging enough.  The hint itself can be modified into an English lesson.  One idea is to include environmental literacy such as a street sign in the geocaching process.  This adheres directly to one of the literary state standards for a Kindergartner in the state of Colorado. 

     A fifth grade assignment could be to decode three sentences and figuring out which hint has the most prefixes and/or suffixes.  This is an example of incorporating the fifth grade standards with geocaching.

     A group of high school Sophomores may find themselves reading a novel and exploring a multi-cache that has been created to connect the plot as it unravels.  This could allow the tenth graders to find hidden themes throughout the novel, while locating caches (with symbols of the themes) that their teacher has hidden.  This is another example of teaching the state standards with geocaching.

     As you can only imagine, a teacher can modify the hint or concept of a cache or even multi-cache to create a suitable literacy lesson with age appropriate objectives.


An example of an actual geocache hint:

     The sentence above may look confusing, but through using the alphabet code above it is easy to decode the hint.  The decoded hint is "Bears don't need hints."  This is an example of an ironic hint that a UNC student created for an on campus cache.  


     This could lead to a potential classroom discussion on irony.  What is irony? What does it mean when something is ironic?  Many of the students within classrooms of 2010 are unaware of Alanis Morissette's hit "Ironic".  


     While at the same time hints can be written in a variety of forms including short sentence, haiku, riddle, and really any other creative way someone can think of.  A class could be divided into groups and create their own cache, deciding on the geographic location, type of container they will hide, as well as writing information about their cache which includes a hint.


How do I find a local cache near our school?


     Simply visit the Geocaching website and create a username and password.  The quickest way to find a cache near your school is by clicking on "advanced search" along the right column of the homepage.




     Next type your zip code into the search bar.



     Use the map interface to find actual caches on your school grounds or near your school.



     I have designated on the map above a location of a specific cache near my school.  After clicking on it on the map, you will be able to see a cache description.  



     This is a great example of a geo cache with a brief description and advice.  The coordinates that students would enter into their hand held GPS unit would be:


A great example of a literacy cache:


A great example of a literacy cache created by a teacher in the United Kingdom.  As amazing as this example of a cache is, I must point out that the 20 pounds that the teacher is offering as a reward goes against the official geocaching rules.  Money should never be taken or left in a cache.  In similar terms, I am sure that we would each agree as educators that money should not be used as motivation for young students to learn.



Geocaching for all students and subjects:


As previously demonstrated, students from anywhere from Kindergarten to Doctoral students can enjoy geocaching.  Depending upon the type of exploration geocaching can even incorporate a variety of subjects including:





 Geocaching Teacher Resources:



Depending upon the project you are trying to create or lesson you are designing simply perform a Google search and see what you find.


What a great way to allow students to actually explore the world and make discoveries.


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